There is a resurgence of interest in the ancient art form of mosaic tile. We are seeing stunning mosaic work decorating bathrooms, kitchen backsplashes and floors. If you are lucky enough to live near a studio that offers classes as well as supplies, then take the time to drop in.
At the Mosaic Beach Studio in Toronto (www.mosaicbeach.com), I was inspired by all the aids available to help anyone turn out a professional mosaic project, including a series of wrought-iron tables, trivets, wood trays, vases, terra-cotta pots and mirrors.
Here are tips from the pros:
If your mosaic project is on an area that is difficult to reach or work on for a prolonged period of time, such as a backsplash, wall or floor, use the mesh method of applying the tiles. Draw your design on a piece of craft paper and tape it to your work table. Cover the craft paper with plastic film, then a sheet of mosaic mesh, and tape down. Cut your tiles and use a bit of Weldbond to glue them in place on the mesh.
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You will be able to see the design through the mesh. Remember to leave space for grout around each tile piece. Once the pattern is complete, you will be able to peel off the plastic-covered pattern, and it's ready to install.
For exterior tables that are going to be exposed to harsh winters, use exterior-grade plywood and cover it with a sheet of concrete board. Wood alone will contract and expand, which will ruin your mosaic. For all exterior projects, Weldbond, exterior-grade silicone or thinset mortar are the recommended adhesives.
Grouting is very important: It frames each tile and can ruin your work if it isn't applied well. Always use sanded grout, which comes in powder form, to which you add water to mix. It is recommended for all projects, inside and out. You can color the grout with a little acrylic paint or tint.
It is a good idea to seal the grout on surfaces that may stain – tabletops, trays and floors. Choose a good-quality sealer and apply until the grout no longer absorbs it. Reseal annually. Epoxy resin is an option if you want a super-smooth, perfectly even surface.
To the reader who inquired about using mosaic tiles on her existing garden pavers: Yes, you can do this. Use thinset mortar to adhere the tiles, and grout with a sanded grout. For those who want to apply tiles to glass or laminate, yes to both. Apply a high-quality primer to the laminate surface first for better adherence.
This trend not only looks great, but speaks to the artist in all of us.